Posted by Editoress on 04/11/03
Sea Otter Classic
This report made possible through the sponsorship of Evolution by Oryx
There were no changes in the overall leads of either the road or mountain bike stage races at the Sea Otter Classic on Friday. Genevieve Jeanson (Rona-Esker) and Nathan O'Neill (Saturn) continue to lead the road races, and Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Roland Green (Trek-VW) head up the off road event.
The road events were switched to Laguna Seca from Santa Cruz; ostensibly to make a more exciting racing then a crit, after the cancellation of the men's first stage in Redwood City, but mainly because speed bumps on the circuit in Santa Cruz made it unacceptable for the roadies. The mountain bikers stayed with Santa Cruz, and the speed bumps made no appreciable difference in their event...
Jeanson finished second to Quebec rival Lyne Bessette (Saturn) in the 35 kilometre third stage of the women's race, while 22 year old Michael Creed (Prime Alliance) took his first ever pro victory in the 55 kilometre men's event. Gord Fraser (Health Net) in third and Michael Barry (US Postal) kept Canadians on the podium for the men's race.
Bessette's Saturn team made numerous attempts to break away from Jeanson in the 45 kilometre stage, but the Rona-Esker rider was always vigilant in chasing them down. Manon Jutras (Saturn), Jeanson's former lieutenant, launched a strong attack at the halfway mark and Jeanson responded. With approximately a third of the race remaining, Bessette counter-attacked and Jeanson was able to respond once again. The two pulled away from the field, working steadily together, and at the finish Jeanson sat up, content to let Bessette take the stage victory after protecting her lead for another day. Laura Van Gilder won the field sprint to give Saturn place on the podium also. Sandy Espeseth (Victory Brewing/Amoroso's) put a third Canadian on the podium in fifth place.
"Lyne attacked and I was able to follow." explained Jeanson. "I was pretty tired from the earlier attacks so I was happy to sit in and let her do most of the work. She deserved the win."
Bessette was pleased with the turn of events, which move her to within eight seconds of American Kimberly Bruckner (T-Mobile), who is in second place, one minute and 31 seconds behind Jeanson. "Our team did a really good job of controlling the race, and sending off attacks. For me it was good to get away, since I needed more time. In the last half lap (Genevieve) didn't work as much, so I didn't get all the time I needed, but it was still very good for us."
Bessette was actually rather annoyed with Jeanson, who first outsprinted her for the time bonus sprint during their break, and then sat up before the finish.
Bruckner's T-Mobile team, despite being stacked with talent, missed the boat completely, and had to chase hard for 3 laps, exhausting themselves completely to keep Bruckner in second.
Saturn was in the driver's seat for the men's event, holding down the top three spots in the overall classification. Ever watchful, the team made sure that every breakaway contained a Saturn rider. Michael Barry figured in one early break attempt, but it lasted less than a lap. At the halfway point Creed was taking his Prime Alliance team leader, Jonathan Vaughters, up to the front of the pack, and looked around to see that he had a gap.
"I saw the gap and just kept going. A couple of laps later David Zabriskie (US Postal), Steve Larsen (Webcor) and Tom Danielson (Saturn) came up to join me. After Tom got the time bonus sprint he kept up the pace, so I sat on his wheel."
The duo quickly moved 30 seconds clear, and then over a minute, putting O'Neill's magenta SRAM leader's jersey in jeopardy to his team mate O'Neill. A quick word over the team radios had Danielson easing off to a more acceptable 15 to 20 seconds.
In the final sprint the more experienced Creed allowed Danielson to take the lead before easily coming around him in the last 100 yards to record the first victory of his professional career.
"This has been a long time coming" an emotional Michael Creed said after the race as rivals came up to congratulate him. "Two years ago I was in a break here, thinking that I could win, when I flatted. I actually had a horrible time trial here yesterday, and for the first time actually thought of not racing my bicycle. I've always been knocking on the door .... this is just, just unbelievable."
Danielson was definitely the stronger rider, and attacked on the final climb, all but dropping Creed. "I hurt so much - I was riding with one eye shut it hurt so much. I just kept focussing on Tom's cassette and was afraid to look up the hill to see how much was left. Once we got over the top and I was still there, I knew that I had a chance."
Post-race there were some rather hot words by Danielson, who had been thoroughly confused by radio directions to keep the gap low, but still win the stage. The incredibly talented rider, overall winner of the Tour de Langkawi in February, kept saying "I don't know how to sprint, I'm new to bike racing. I just felt super strong and could have gone 2, 3 minutes up the road easily." His team mates stepped in for damage control, and will certainly be spending some time educating their incredibly talented recruit.
In the mountain bike stage race, the pros moved up the coast to Santa Cruz for a "Fatboy" criterium circuit race. Forty four year old Steve Tilford, the winner of last year's Fatboy, repeated for the men, coming out of the last corner to sprint to victory. Roland Green accelerated in the last lap and got a gap unexpectedly, but was swarmed in the last corner, which is when Tilford attacked. Green continues to lead the overall standings. In the women's event, national champion Alison Dunlap also sprinted to a close victory, with Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) maintaining her overall lead, a mere one half second in front of Sue Haywood (Trek-VW). Alison Sydor (Trek-VW) suffered an unlucky flat at the start of the last lap - too late for a free lap. She got a wheel change and chased, but had to thread her way through spectators out on the course, and the men's field lining up for their start. She was given the pack time, but dropped out of the top ten. Melanie McQuaid was the top Canadian in fourth place.
Tomorrow the road races continue with a 160 kilometre single lap for both the men and the women. Given the predicted rain, the attrition rate should be fearful. Racing starts at 1:30 pm EDT. The mountain bikers have an afternoon short track, which is expected to have little effect on the overall standings.
- both Fraser and Barry agreed that Saturn was running the show. "They have the strongest team by far, so they are controlling everything." said Barry. Fraser went further: "Saturn is so strong. There were out there turning up and turning down the heat for Danielson as needed. Mike (Sayers - Fraser's team mate) and I are basically just slaves of the peloton. We have to roll the dice in the pack and hope it comes down to a sprint."
- Jeanson's response to the extremely long women's race? "I need to go and eat extra pasta tonight!"
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